Android Overview Updated March 24, 2021

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May 2011 - May 2022

Android is Google’s mobile operating system, launched in September 2008, although its history technically began with the release of the Android alpha in November 2007. To this day, Android powers the majority of the world’s smartphones and comes in several different flavors across many phone makers.

What is Android?

Android Inc.

Android, before it was Android, was a company called Android Inc. That company was founded in Palo Alto, California, in 2003 by a crew of four: Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. The company and its project was acquired by Google in 2005 for a sum of more than $50 million, although the exact number is unknown. The company’s founders joined Google as part of the deal.

In its infancy, Android was an operating system built not for touch screen smartphones like the iPhone, but rather BlackBerry-like devices with physical keyboards. It’s well documented that after Apple shocked the world with the iPhone, ahead of its nearest competition by at least a couple years, Google and Android Inc. had to go back to the drawing board to build something competitive.

Adoption by third-party makers

It didn’t take long after the launch of the iPhone for various manufacturers to enter the market with their alternatives — and Google’s Android immediately became the obvious platform of choice for just about everyone except Microsoft. HTC was the first manufacturer on board, and introduced the T-Mobile G1 running Android in September 2008. Soon after, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile jumped on board to form the Open Handset Alliance.

Android makers across the world

Iconic Android handsets

There have been thousands of Android phones released since Android’s inception, but some have been more important to the platform’s history than others. There was the original T-Mobile G1, as mentioned, but there was also the HTC One Google Play Edition, Moto G, Samsung Galaxy S4, and others. Some of the most iconic Android handsets include:

  • HTC G1
  • HTC Nexus One
  • Samsung Galaxy S, S2, S3, S4, and their successors
  • HTC Incredible S
  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Nokia 8
  • BlackBerry KeyOne
  • Google Pixel and its successors

In more modern times, there are several Android smartphones makers that popped up across various niches and in several international markets. Huawei is a dominant Android maker in China and many European markets, while Samsung is by far the most popular maker in the United States by far — effectively creating a duopoly with Apple. Today, there are dozens of major device makers contributing to the Android ecosystem.

Full list of Android OEMs

History of major Android versions

Android has seen countless software revisions over the course of its life, but in modern times the OS usually sees a major release on an annual cadence. In the earlier days, Google famously gave its major software releases dessert-themed codenames, but retired that practice in 2019 with the release of Android 10.

Version Name Release Devices
2.3 Gingerbread February 9, 2011 Nexus S
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich October 19, 2011 Galaxy Nexus
4.1 Jelly Bean July 9, 2012 Nexus 7
4.2 Jelly Bean November 13, 2012 Nexus 4, 10
4.3 Jelly Bean July 24, 2013 Nexus 7 (2013)
4.4 KitKat October 31, 2013 Nexus 5
5.0 Lollipop November 3, 2014 Nexus 6, 9
5.1 Lollipop March 9, 2015 Android One
6.0 Marshmallow October 5, 2015 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.0 Nougat August 22, 2016 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.1 Nougat October 4, 2016 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.0 Oreo August 21, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.1 Oreo December 5, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
9 Pie August 6, 2018 Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
10 10 September 3, 2019 Pixel 3, 3a
11 11 September 8, 2020 Pixel 4

List of major Android OS platforms

While Android proper is certainly the most widespread of Google’s Android operating systems, the company has also launched many offshoots of the main OS over the years. There’s Android Auto, Android Wear (now Wear OS), Android TV (now rebranded to Google TV), as well as versions of Android built for tablets and Android Things (now defunct).

Android Stories May 20

Xiaomi, one of the biggest phone manufacturers in China, wants to prevent APKs from being extracted from Android devices, but thankfully Google disagrees with the idea.

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Bandcamp will keep in-app billing on Android for now, as Google & Epic battle it out [U]

Just last month, Epic Games announced that it would acquire the music platform Bandcamp. Now, Bandcamp is the latest reason Epic Games is taking legal action against Google, this time over the tech giant’s Android app billing crackdown.

This article was last updated on May 20. Scroll down for the latest.

Google has updated its chart showing the percentage of Android devices running various versions of the OS, but there are still no details about Android 12’s adoption rate.

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Android Stories May 19

In addition to other Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) announcements today, Google is making it easier to find accessible Android apps in the Play Store.

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The May 2022 Android security update is rolling out now to these phones and tablets in Samsung’s wide-reaching lineup of Galaxy devices.

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Flaw in Huawei AppGallery allows paid Android apps to be downloaded for free [Update: Fix incoming]

A newly discovered flaw in Huawei’s AppGallery store makes it possible for paid Android apps to be downloaded for free, but a fix is on the way.

Android Stories May 18

At I/O 2022, Google announced that it will update over 20 of its first-party apps for large screens in a show of its commitment to the form factor. This will undoubtedly improve the experience for existing owners and is meant to encourage other developers to do the same. Here’s every Google app on Android that has a tablet update and what’s still to come.

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Small Android phones are dead. As sad as it is to say, it’s extremely unlikely that a flagship Android phone will come out in the foreseeable future. Let’s go over why.

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A week ago at I/O 2022, Google said it would optimize over 20 of its Android apps for large-screen devices. The first tablet update is now here, and that distinction goes to Google Lens.

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Google effectively blocks Total Commander file manager from sideloading APK files on Android

The Google Play Store has apparently blocked the relatively popular file manager, Total Commander, from sideloading APK files by threat of removal from the app from the store.

The Vivo X80 and X80 Pro have now officially launched in global markets after initially being made available in China earlier this year.

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Android Stories May 17

Google is ever on the quest to improve the general perception of security and privacy on its mobile operating system. The latest effort is called “Protected by Android” and that branding looks set for a broader rollout.

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Android Stories May 16

May’s Google Play system updates for Android phones add self-sharing to Nearby Share, a redesign of the Google Help app, Android 13’s photo picker, and more.

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Android ‘@Work’ minis from Dead Zebra show the mascot holding a Pixelbook, more [U: In stock]

The latest set of Android minis from Dead Zebra show the beloved mascot “@Work” in a variety of jobs, including a depiction of an IT manager holding a Pixelbook and one wearing a smartwatch.

Update: The new series of figures are now available for purchase.

Google announced recently that it would purge the Play Store of outdated Android apps that didn’t support the platform’s latest features or had been neglected. According to a new report, Google’s crackdown will remove nearly 900,000 outdated Android apps from the Play Store.

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Android Stories May 14

In this week’s top stories: highlights from the Google I/O conference include a roadmap for the Pixel series, showcasing Pixel 7, Pixel Watch, and much more.

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Android Stories May 12

For the Android team, “Better Together” has been a persistent theme in announcements at CES and now I/O 2022. Besides cross-device experiences in its own products, Google wants to make it easy for third-party Android developers to build similar Nearby Share experiences in their apps.

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On Android, there are dozens of fitness apps you can use to track your steps, goals, and exercises throughout the day. Google’s new Health Connect app promises to sync fitness data from various Android apps including Fitbit, Samsung Health, and more.

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On stage at I/O 2022, Google announced that over 20 of its first-party apps will soon be optimized for large screens. Some were already previewed yesterday, and there’s now a look at how Google Clock and Calculator are being updated for their Android tablet redesigns.

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Google today previewed its first smartwatch ahead of a fall launch alongside the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. In doing so, Google made note of how the Pixel Watch “requires an Android 8.0 or newer phone,” while foregoing any mention of iPhone support.

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Android Stories May 11

Google I/O is the tech giant’s annual chance to boast its wins, and also provide meaningful updates on where its various products stand. Below, we’ve collected some of the key numbers and metrics from Google I/O 2022.

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At its core, Google I/O has always been a developer-focused event. Here are the biggest announcements that Google made during the I/O developer keynote and beyond.

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To push tablets, Google said at I/O 2022 that it’s going to update many of its first-party apps for large screens. This includes YouTube Music, the Play Store, and Google TV.

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Android Stories May 10

Google has restored the status bar vibrate mode icon to Android 12 QPR3 Beta with a new settings menu toggle.

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Android Stories May 9

While not often available outside of a few selected markets, Sharp has officially unveiled the Aquos R7, which touts a massive 1-inch rear 47.2-megapixel camera sensor and an upgraded 240Hz AMOLED display.

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Android Stories May 6

The Google Pixel series not only comes with day-one updates, but it also comes with a number of features that you probably haven’t been using or need to use more often.

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Android Stories May 5

Following our report last month, Google today announced its support for “passwordless FIDO Sign-in standards” and previewed what the end-user experience of passkeys on Android and Chrome will look like. 

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Android Stories May 4

Live Q&A sessions with the Android team were a staple of previous Google developer conferences. After skipping last year, Google I/O 2022 will once again see an Android fireside chat.

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The Android marketplace is a tough nut to crack, but since 2020, one-time OnePlus cofounder Carl Pei has created hype around his latest startup. Nothing is set to launch its first device — Phone (1) — later this summer, and here’s what to expect.

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[Update] Apex Legends Mobile to fully launch later this ‘summer’ w/ Android pre-registration now open

After a limited beta release in selected regions, Respawn Entertainment’s massive looter shooter Apex Legends Mobile is set to come to Android and iOS later this “summer.”

Android Stories May 3

Hands down, one of the very best features to live on the Google Pixel is its call screening feature. The ability to discern a caller’s intention before even picking up is fantastic and makes handling calls and fighting spambots much easier. On the Pixel, these settings are fully customizable and allow you to change what kind of calls get screened. This guide will bring you through all of the basics.

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The security world has been abuzz about a new Linux exploit called “Dirty Pipe,” which also affects Android 12 devices like Galaxy S22 and Pixel 6. Here’s everything you need to know about “Dirty Pipe,” which devices it affects, and how best to avoid it.

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Android Stories April 30

Google has historically been very cautious about changing Chrome’s interface and layout given the extremely large user base. That said, one such change might be underway in Chrome for Android with the addition of a customizable toolbar shortcut.

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Android Stories April 28

Google is preparing to launch a brand new way to move from Apple’s iPhones to an Android device. Here’s your first look at Google’s “Switch to Android” app running on an iPhone.

Update: Google’s Switch to Android app is now widely available.

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Android Stories April 27

Apple should make iOS 16 customization more like Android’s: Here’s what I want to see

Apple doesn’t offer truly individualized customization of its products or interfaces to its users, and if anyone wants to customize the look of their Apple products – specifically their home screens – they’re in for A Time. With iOS 16 coming in September, there’s an opportunity for Apple to give consumers needed autonomy.

Google Play Store reportedly hit 28.3 billion app downloads in Q1 2022, led by Instagram

According to a new report, the Google Play Store drove an increase in the number of app downloaded during the first quarter of 2022, and to no one’s surprise it was TikTok that led the charge.

Google recaps how it countered bad Android apps and developers in 2021

Every year, Google recaps how it “fought bad apps and developers.” The 2021 edition comes a day after the company’s latest initiative, the Play Store’s Data safety section, has started to roll out.

Android Stories April 26

After touting a “quarterly sales record” during the last earnings call, Sundar Pichai said today that the Pixel 6 is the “fastest selling Pixel ever.” The Alphabet CEO also teased more hardware and Android announcements for I/O 2022.

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Google announced that the Play Store was getting a “Data safety” section last May, and it’s now beginning to roll out after a brief delay. The new section will be fully available over the coming weeks, and full developer adoption is set for July.

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Android Stories April 25

The April Google Play system updates for Android phones will bring new Play Pass and Play Points features, ways to discover apps, and more.

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How to delete and uninstall apps

It would be insane to think that every app you ever install on your phone would be useful or interesting forever. Uninstalling or deleting apps is a natural part of owning an Android device, meaning you need to know how to do it. This guide will take you through the ins and outs of uninstalling and deleting apps on your Android device.

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Android Stories April 22

Google has revealed the official codename for Android 14, internally dubbing the 2023 release “Upside Down Cake.”

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“Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion,” a Zelda-like adventure game with an off-the-wall sense of humor, is coming soon to Android.

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Android Stories April 21

Turn off weather notifications on the Google Pixel

Space in your notification tray is generally pretty valuable, so if one or two notifications are constantly around, it can feel clogged up and inefficient. That’s what Google’s weather notifications can feel like on your Pixel. So how do you disable them? Well, there are a couple of ways.

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The Moto G line has faced some criticism recently, pointed specifically at the Moto G Stylus 2022 and the entire lack of 5G for the time it was released. It seems Motorola is out to fix that with two new reiterations: the Moto G 5G Stylus and Moto G 5G.

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Android Stories April 20

Screen casting comes naturally to Google TV

Google TV is an OS that debuted on Google’s Chromecast. As it would happen, the Chromecast is a great tool for displaying a shared screen from your Android phone or tablet. It’s literally in the name. So how do you cast your screen to Google TV? This guide will take you through the ins and outs.

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GameSir X3 gaming controller for Android launches on IndieGogo, adds cooling fan

The GameSir X3 is launching today on IndieGogo as a successor to the company’s popular X2 controller for Android phones, bringing a new cooling fan.

To help streamline the process of restoring your new phone from an older Android device it seems the “Set up my Device” process has gained a Fast Pair UI.

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